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Peter, James, and John, the Apostles


Jesus selected Peter, James, and John as a representative body of his disciples. The following were their common features: All of them belonged to the group of the twelve apostles who were full- time followers of Jesus. They were fishermen and belonged to the inner circle of Jesus. Hence, they were chosen among the elect. These three were the only ones privileged to accompany Jesus to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter to life (Mk 5:37), to the Mount of Transfiguration (Mk 9:2), and to be close with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:33). All of them wrote epistles, and John authored the fourth gospel.

Peter had several features and initiatives during his association with Jesus, such as:
1. Peter offered his house for Jesus to stay during his ministry in Capernaum (Mt 8:14-17).
2. Jesus used Peter’s boat to sit and teach the crowd at the lakeshore (Lk 5:3).
3. Peter sought from Jesus the privilege to walk on water like Jesus himself (Mt 14:28).
4. He asked Jesus to explain the parables to the disciples (Mt 15:15).
5. He expressed his faith in Jesus, stating, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).
6. Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter as a privilege (Jn 1:42; Mt 16:18).
7. He rebuked Jesus for being willing to undergo his passion (Mt 16:22).
8. Jesus selected Peter as the head of his Church and gave him special privileges (Mt 16:18-19).
9. The collectors of the Temple tax identified Peter as the leader of the apostles and enquired of him whether Jesus was paying the tax (Mt 17:24).
10. Peter asked Jesus: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Mt 18:21)
11. Peter objected to Jesus, who stooped to wash his feet at the last supper (Jn 13:6).
12. When the soldiers attempted to arrest Jesus, Peter struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear (Jn 18:10).
13. The disciples respected Peter’s leadership (Jn 21:3).
14. When Peter gathered from John that Jesus was the person helping them from the shore for a great catch of fish, only he jumped into the water and approached Jesus (Jn 21:7).
15. When Jesus asked the disciples to bring a few fish they had caught, it was Peter who went over and dragged the net ashore (Jn 21:10-11).
16. Jesus allowed Peter to express his love for him thrice to compensate for Peter’s triple denial and asked him to feed his sheep and lambs (Jn 21:15-19).
17. Jesus predicted Peter’s martyrdom, signifying by what kind of death Peter would glorify God (Jn 21:19).
18. The Bible gives Peter’s name as the first among the list of apostles (Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13).

Peter and John had activities in common during their life with Jesus that the gospels record:
1. Jesus sent two disciples to get a donkey and its colt for his entry into Jerusalem. They must’ve been Peter and John because it was them that Jesus sent later to prepare the Passover (Mt 21:1-7; Mk 11:1-7; Lk 19:28-35).
2. Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare the last Passover meal for Jesus and his apostles (Lk 22:7-13).
3. At the Last Supper, when Jesus testified that one of them would betray him, Peter nodded to John to find out from Jesus what he meant. John then asked Jesus, “Master, who is it?” (Jn 13:21-25)
4. Both Peter and John went into the courtyard of Annas during the trial of Jesus (Jn 18:15-16).
5. Peter and John went into the empty tomb of Jesus after his
resurrection. John let Peter enter the tomb first (Jn 20:1-10).
6. After the resurrection, a person helped the disciples with a miraculous catch of fish. John was the first to identify him as Jesus and told that to Peter. Then Peter jumped into the water and approached Jesus (Jn 21:7).
7. Peter asked Jesus how John’s life would end while doing his apostolic ministry (Jn 21:21).

James and John had a few things in common:
1. They were brothers and sons of Zebedee and Salome (Mk 10:35).
2. James and John were in a boat mending nets with their father at the shore of the Sea of Galilee when Jesus invited them to join his full-time ministry. They immediately left their father and followed Jesus (Mt 4:21-22; Mk 1:19-20).
3. Jesus called them ‘Boanerges’, sons of thunder (Mk 3:17) maybe because of their fiery zeal.
4. James and John asked Jesus, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left” (Mk 10:37). Jesus asked them: “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They replied, “We can” (Mk 10:38-39). Thus, they expressed their willingness to sacrifice their lives for Jesus’ mission.
5. James and John were first cousins of Jesus because, according to scholars, Salome was a sister of Jesus’ mother Mary. Hence, Salome took the freedom to ask for a better position for her sons (Mt 20:20-21).
6. People in a Samaritan village declined to welcome Jesus while he was on his way to Jerusalem. Thus frustrated, James and John asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” (Lk 9:54)

John: Besides the common features shared with Peter and James as cited above, John had certain unique characteristics in relation to Jesus’ ministry as seen below:
1. According to the traditional understanding, John was a disciple of John the Baptist (Jn 1:35-39) before he followed Jesus. So, John had from the Baptist both the training and the conviction that Jesus was the Messiah.
2. He was the youngest apostle.
3. John reported to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us” (Mk 9:38; Lk 9:49).
4. John had the privilege of reclining upon Jesus’ chest during the last supper (Jn 13:23; Jn 21:20).
5. The Bible records the special love between John and Jesus (Jn 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20).
6. John had acquaintance with the high priest and his staff (Jn 18:16).
7. John was the only disciple who was at the foot of the cross at Jesus’ crucifixion (Jn 19:26).
8. Jesus entrusted his mother to John and John to his mother (Jn 19:26-27).
9. John took Mary to his home after the crucifixion of Jesus (Jn 19:27).
10. John was the first apostle to reach the empty tomb of Jesus. However, he respected the leadership of Peter and let him enter first (Jn 20:3-8).

Jesus took the three chosen apostles with him to witness the remarkable events in his life because, according to the Law, two or three witnesses could support proof of truth (Deut 17:6; 19:15). They should not lose their hope when they would see Jesus’ bitter agony in the garden or when John witnesses the crucifixion. Jesus took Peter with him because he had remonstrated with Jesus in a bid to avoid the passion (Mt 16:21-23; Mk 8:31-33) and so Jesus wanted to show him the heavenly glory awaiting him. Besides, Jesus had chosen Peter as the head of his Church. So, he should have the conviction of the glorious future of the faithful. Jesus took James and John because James would be the first martyr among the apostles and John the last to die. So, they also should remember the heavenly glory when they face challenges in their ministry and when they deal with others in their faith crises.

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